Monthly Archives: October 2013

SVRI letter to UNAIDS re: why including gender equality & GBV in core programming is important

Gender Equality (slogan)

Do you know about the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI)?

You can find them at:

Do you know about the letter they wrote to UNAIDS entitled: Why including gender equality and gender-based violence in the core programming and as critical enablers in the new UNAIDS investment framework matters.

What are your views regarding this?

Latch-Key Kids


This past week I have been thinking about childhood trauma and the coping mechanisms we use to overcome or lessen the impact of this trauma. My attention was then drawn to what is commonly known as “latch-key kids” i.e. children living in single parent households (single and the breadwinner) or households where both parents need to work. The child is given a key to the house and comes home to an empty house after school and remains unsupervised (without a caregiver) until the parent(s) come home from work – usually late in the afternoon/early evening.

In South Africa, this is a common occurrence especially in the middle and more especially in the low income households. This is a sure formula for behavioural problems later. These children live a sad existence. Imagine, coming home from school to find no one home to love them or to advise them, supervise and help with homework or have a role model, is a sure way to have a lot of pent up rage later in life.

This child usually (I’m generalising here) has low self esteem, self hatred, feelings of abandonment which could lead to self destructive behaviour or overt hostility – a story of a “stolen childhood”. It is common for these children to have higher levels of anti-social behaviour (incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse etc). Two types of behaviour could stem from this: (1) chasing the high (adrenalin junkie) or (2) self-medicating (the hypochondriac or maybe even a “comfort” eater).

Description of traumatic experiences:
Some events could possibly only occur once (e.g. rape) but many other experiences could occur numerous times throughout childhood. Asked about their experiences, children would probably express it as “no big deal” but for many it would actually be very traumatic. I would also think that the effects of the trauma would depend on the coping mechanisms the child has learnt over the years, to minimise the trauma to him/herself.

Generally speaking, particularly here in South Africa, the most frequently described traumatic experience is sexual abuse, usually by a family member (i.e. father, brother or cousin). The sexual abuse could range from fondling to frequent and sadistic sexual penetration. In South Africa, the latest victim was four months old.

Another common traumatic experience is witnessing violence in the home (physical and psychological violence between the adults in the home is common). This usually occurs when one or both the adults are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (or in some cases, both). Some children are spanked or beaten with a belt when they misbehaved and others suffer psychological abuse which results in feelings of demoralisation and low self-esteem.

Abandonment by fathers is another common occurrence in South Africa (particularly in the low income households). Fathers abandon the mother while she is still pregnant and often never come back meaning that they never see the child or sometimes they come back a few months or a few years after the birth and try to reconnect with the mother in the hope of connecting with the child. The trauma caused to the child varies depending on the age of the child. In some instances, fathers only come back to establish a relationship with the child when they hear that the child has a successful career and earning good money or the child has an elevated status in society etc so the re-connection with the child is usually status or driven by money (selfish reasons) – not because they are interested in the child.

Sometimes the mother (and in extreme cases, both parents) abandons the home. Many children, especially in our lower income communities have to fend for themselves and often have to take responsibility for younger siblings as well when their parents leave them – sometimes for days, weeks, months or years at a time. Others are abandoned by their parents at a young age and never get the chance to form a relationship with them. These children often (in order to escape the social services system), take to the streets hence the reason why we have so many street children living on the streets in South Africa. They usually resort to begging on street corners for money to survive – sometimes get hooked on drugs and buy drugs instead of food, some are picked up by pimps who entice them with money and material goods to work for them and others resort to crime (theft) as a means of survival.

Although all these traumatic experiences are very different, they all have one thing in common, they require resilience from the child to deal with it successfully. How does the child develop this resilience without a positive role-model in his/her life?

There are usually five common themes regarding positive influences in overcoming trauma, i.e.

1) Spirituality/faith in God (or in a higher power/being)
2) Supportive others
3) Therapeutic relationships
4) Self-determination
5) Expressive writing

For some, this is an important influence in rising above their traumatic experiences. They rely on their faith both during and after their traumatic experience(s). For others, it is the most important influence in dealing with their trauma. While some individuals prefer to pray on their own, many get involved in their church or place of worship and this helps them through their trauma. In the case of street children, those who knew their parent(s) even for a brief period, had some experience in going to a place of worship at some stage of their lives. Those who never knew their parents, are sometimes drawn to places of worship by watching people go there, by the singing/chanting or by mere curiosity and wanting to find out more. Some are even drawn to religion through soup kitchens or Sunday School activity.

For some, having at least one person they could turn to when they needed them is helpful. Some seek support from family, friends and other adults in the community. One issue relating to this avenue of seeking support is the rejection that many experience. This could lead to them not disclosing their abuse while others could feel forced to seek support elsewhere.

Some seek help from a school counsellor or therapist during their childhood or as an adult. Some feel that therapy really helps them deal with their traumatic experience(s). There are those, however, who do not have positive experiences with therapy. Some feel that their counsellors minimise their traumatic experiences and some feel ignored by their counsellors or that what they have to share is not important. Some could possibly not feel connected or safe enough with their therapists to open up and discuss their experiences.

Some survive their experiences purely on their own self-determination to do so. Their own internal resources lead them to be resilient, healthy adults. The belief that they are strong enough to deal with their situation is what gets them through their traumatic experience(s).

Some deal with trauma by writing down their feelings. They keep a written record of their ordeal and how they copied with it. Some write poetry and others keep a journal. Some initiate writing on their own, as a way to cope with their problems while others are instructed or advised to write by their therapists. This is usually a useful tool when it is too uncomfortable to share (verbalise) the experience with others.

Some people are able to display enormous courage and resilience in dealing with traumatic experiences and in their perception, manage to function as relatively psychologically healthy adults.

When it comes to research on trauma, focussing on the positive (self-determination) rather than the negative (psychopathology) outcomes of individuals who experienced childhood trauma, will direct research to areas that improve the quality of life of these individuals rather than research that focuses on their limitations.

What do you think?

Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI)

Announcement animation

We are now only a few days away from the SVRI Forum 2013 and we are looking forward to a wonderful conference in Bangkok! Please note that we will be resuming the SVRI Update in the week of 28 October.

We will however update the SVRI Twitter and Facebook platforms during the conference so make sure you follow us at @TheSVRI on Twitter or Sexual Violence Research Initiative on Facebook. We will be using the hashtag #SVRIForum – so please do look for this when searching for updates! Access the SVRI programme at: for more information on presentations and events taking place next week.

This SVRI Update contains a variety of sexual violence related research and resources. If you would like to have your sexual violence related resources included in the Update, please send your materials to For more information and resources on sexual violence and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative visit

Today’s SVRI Update includes the following:
[Summaries directly taken or adapted from source]

I. SVRI member requests
II. Sexual violence in the news
III. Websites
IV. Online publications/resources
V. Journal articles
VI. Events
VII. Funding links / research opportunities / fellowships and scholarships
VIII. Vacancies

I. SVRI member requests

The International Mobilizing Men for Violence Prevention Survey Project is inviting men who have attended an event or events related to preventing violence against women to participate in a new international survey. If this describes you, they would love to learn from you! Please consider visiting the survey at the link below – your experiences and insight are very important.

The goals of the survey are to:

· Learn more about what brings men to violence prevention events and longer- term violence prevention work

· Hear what men think about these events, and how they are impacted by participating

· Learn what might encourage more men to get involved in ending violence against women

The Project is interested in hearing from men who have attended a single violence prevention event AND from men who have been working on the issue of violence against women for any length of time. To learn more about the survey and how to participate, click here: can also learn more about the project at: [Source: Prevent-Connect].

II. Sexual violence in the news

Almost 40% of sexual violence against children ‘by under-18s’, The Irish Times, 9 October 2013: Almost 40 per cent of the perpetrators of sexual violence against children were themselves under the age of 18, a groundbreaking report from the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) finds.

New laws may fail to protect children in Sri Lanka, Inter Press Service News Agency, 9 October 2013: Stricter laws could curb the rising trend of child abuse in Sri Lanka, experts say. However, recommendations like witness protection, special courts and procedures to hear abuse cases and more legal assistance to victims are unlikely to be included in a new draft Child Protection Policy that is to be presented to parliament before the end of the year.

Violence against women in Latin America: Everyday aggression, The Economist, 21 September 2013: One night last year police received a call from worried residents of a wealthy area of San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital, who thought they had heard a woman being beaten up by her partner. A few minutes later they called back to say they had heard gunshots ring out from the house.

III. Websites

BRIDGE – Gender and social movements: Explore the site to find information, evidence and tools for activists who want to bring a gender perspective into the work of social justice movements, and for supporters of gender-just movements worldwide. [Source: AWID].

Emergency contraception: In-depth country information. ICEC and its partner organizations have collected in-depth information on issues such as national-level policies guiding EC use, women’s knowledge and use of EC, providers’ and key opinion leaders’ awareness of and attitudes toward EC, and the market availability of EC.For information on every country in the world, including what EC products are available, prescription status, and other access issues, please see our status and availability database. [Source: FCI].

Refugee portal: This portal to ensure that refugees have easy access to multilingual resources. Resources include topics of family life and parenting, early childhood, the U.S. school system (K-12), children’s books, and health/mental health. [Source: Child Welfare Librarian].

IV. Online publications/resources

A poor start in life predicts poor life outcomes: Investigating the potential impact of maternity and early child support in South Africa. The Centre for Health Policy. Policy brief, 2013: This policy brief was compiled from a report produced for the Department of Social Development entitled “State maternity and early child support – Investigating the potential impact of maternity and early child support in South Africa: An Options Assessment”. [Source: 60 percent].

Book chapter – Ending child trafficking as a human rights priority: Applying the spectrum of prevention as a conceptual framework. Rafferty, Y. In J. Segal and F. Denmark (Eds.), Violence against women across the life cycle: An international perspective, pp. 133-174, 2013: This two-volume set provides a comprehensively broad treatment of the global problem of violence against women, addressing less commonly discussed subjects such as domestic violence in lesbian couples, abuse within the context of war crimes, and the incidence of violence and abuse against women internationally as compared to within the United States. This chapter explores ending child trafficking as a human rights priority. Order online. [Source: PACE].

Confronting commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2013: This new report concludes that efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States require better collaborative approaches that build upon the capabilities of people and entities from a range of sectors. [Source: My Child Welfare Librarian].

V. Journal articles

Piloting community-based medical care for survivors of sexual assault in conflict-affected Karen State of eastern Burma. Tanabe M, Robinson K, Lee C.L et al. Conflict and Health, 7:12, 2013: The aim of this innovative study is to examine the safety and feasibility of community-based medical care for survivors of sexual assault to contribute to building an evidence base on alternative models of care in humanitarian settings. [Source: Women’s Refugee Commission].

Prevalence rates of male and female sexual violence perpetrators in a national sample of adolescents. Ybarra M.L, Mitchell K.L. JAMA Pediatr, ePub, 2013: This article reports national estimates of adolescent sexual violence perpetration and details of the perpetrator experience. [Source: JAMA].

Knowledge and perceptions of date rape among female undergraduates of a Nigerian University. Oshiname .FO, Ogunwale A.O, Ajuwon A.J. Afr. J. Reprod. Health, 17(3): 137-148, 2013: This paper focuses on knowledge and perceptions of Date Rape (DR) among female undergraduates of the University of Ibadan. The cross-sectional survey was conducted among 651 female undergraduates selected using a four-stage random sampling technique. [Source: SafetyLit].

Masculine norms, disclosure, and childhood adversities predict long-term mental distress among men with histories of child sexual abuse. Easton S.D. Child Abuse Negl, ePub, 2013: The purpose of this study was to examine factors related to mental distress among a large, non-clinical sample of men with histories of CSA. [Source: SafetyLit].

Rationalising predictors of child sexual exploitation and sex-trading. Klatt T, Cavner D, Egan V. Child Abuse Negl, ePub, 2013: This article examines case files for 175 young persons who attended a voluntary organization in Leicester, United Kingdom, which supports people who are sexually exploited or at risk of sexual exploitation. [Source: SafetyLit].

Depressive symptoms after a sexual assault among women: Understanding victim-perpetrator relationships and the role of social perceptions. Abrahams N, Jewkes R, Mathews S. Afr. J. Psychiatry, 16(4): 288-293, 2013: This article explores depression symptomatology four to six weeks post-rape in South Africa and examine whether this differs according to the circumstances of the rape. [Source: SafetyLit].

Predicting date rape perceptions: The effects of gender, gender role attitudes, and victim resistance. Black K.A, McCloskey K.A. Violence against Women, 19(8): 949-967, 2013: The effects of participant gender and victim resistance on date rape perceptions have been inconsistent. This study finds that women with traditional gender role attitudes were least likely to agree that the perpetrator was guilty of rape. [Source: SafetyLit].

Measuring the incidence and reporting of violence against women and girls in Liberia using the ‘neighborhood method’. Stark L, Warner A, Lehmann H, Boothby N, Ager A. Confl. Health, 7(1): 20, 2013: This paper reports on the use of a “neighborhood method” to measure the nature and incidence of violence against women and girls in post-conflict Liberia. [Source: SafetyLit].

Please note, to obtain a full copy of a journal article you may write to the author given as the contact person by the respective publishing house to request a copy.

VI. Events

Population futures: Revisiting South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030, 16 October 2013, Pretoria, South Africa. This event launches the second in the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) series of three briefs analysing the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP). [Source: ISS].

Seminar: Women, law and legal advocacy, 14-16 November, Washington, D.C, USA. The Public Leadership Education Network invites college women who are considering careers in law and legal advocacy to Washington, D.C. for a transformative career opportunity. In three days, students who are considering a legal career will learn the potential benefits of attending law school from women policymakers who work in policy every day. Speakers include women who are senior to mid-level professionals, and women who have just started out in Washington, D.C. Applications close: 11 October 2013. [Source: AWID].

Course: CREA’s Sexuality, gender, and rights institute, 11-17 January 2014, Khandala, Maharashtra, India. This annual, week-long residential course focuses on a conceptual study of sexuality. It examines the links between sexuality, rights, gender, and health and their interface with socio-cultural and legal issues. The participants critically analyse policy, research, and programme interventions using a rights-based approach. Applications close: 10 November 2013. [Source: AWID].

APSAC’s 22nd Annual National Colloquium, 11 – 14 June 2014, New Orleans, USA. This conference is one of the field’s premier forums for child abuse professionals to offer training presentations and report new research findings concerning legal, medical, mental health, investigative, preventive, and protective services work with abused and neglected children, their families, and perpetrators of abuse. Presentations are encouraged on all aspects of child maltreatment, including cultural diversity. Abstract submissions close: 11 October 2013. [Source: APSAC].

For more events visit:

VII. Funding links / research opportunities / fellowships and scholarships

Fellowship opportunity: Human rights defenders 2013. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights offers two fellowships to provide an opportunity for young lawyers from OAS Member States to understand and apply the mechanisms of protection of the Inter-American System of Human Rights in the area of human rights defenders. [Source: AWID].

VIII. Vacancies

Research manager / Liverpool VCT / Nairobi, Kenya / Closing date: October 14, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Director, research & policy / Liverpool VCT / Nairobi, Kenya / Closing date: October 14, 2013. . [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Gender programme officer / The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) / Nairobi, Kenya / Closing date: November 30, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Secretary-General / European Women’s Lobby / Brussels / Closing date: November 10, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Lecturer in gender and public policy / School of International and Public Affairs / Columbia University / New York / Open until filled. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Director – Young Changemakers Program / Akili Dada / Nairobi, Kenya / Closing date: October 15, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Gender specialist / International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) / Dakar, Senegal / Closing date: October 20, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Deputy representative (programme & operations) / UN Women / Monrovia, Liberia / Closing date: October 21, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Board of Trustees vacancy/ Gender and Development Network (GADN) / Closing date: October 21, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Chief of staff / UN Women / New York, U.S. / Closing date: October 28, 2013. [Source: AWID Resource-Net Jobs: Monday, 7 October 2013].

Sexual violence is a global issue that requires coordinated evidence-based responses.

The Sexual Violence Research Initiative is hosted by the Medical Research Council, South Africa. The SVRI aims to promote research on sexual violence and generate empirical data to ensure sexual violence is recognized as a priority public health problem. To learn more about the SVRI visit our website or contact us at

Disorganised Attachment (Insecure Attachment)

Turtle Relaxing

What can you tell me about Disorganised Attachment? This is what I’ve managed to find out . . .

Disorganised Attachment is characterised by confused and inconsistent attachment behaviour. It arises when the child experiences insufficient support and safety and, at times actual abuse.

The core characteristics of Attachment experience are:
THE SECURE BASE: being safe is the basis of survival
EMPATHIC ATTUNEMENT: by becoming known and understood by someone, over time, we come to know ourselves and so have the capacity to understand others – empathy
COPING WITH ADVERSITY: contained anxiety can facilitate thinking and learning. Excessive uncertainty can inhibit thinking and learning. In order to learn, you have to tolerate not knowing
INTERNAL WORKING MODEL OF SELF AND THE WORLD: the infant feeling valued and so valuing himself, as well as learning to trust the outside world is safe enough to explore – and to turn to others for support and protection when challenged by uncertainty – the basis of engaging and learning with the teacher
INSECURE ATTACHMENT EXPERIENCE: when the carer has experienced a less than secure enough attachment and even adversity, in their own attachment relationships
INSECURE AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT BEHAVIOUR: fears and uncertainties are not understood and contained and the secure base is experienced as unreliable. Rejection is feared so approaching the carer for support and help is avoided

Disorganised Attachment and Dissociation:
Dissociation is something most people have the capacity to experience. It is a coping mechanism used to manage stressors as minors, as over-stimulation or as severe as sexual abuse.

As a way of coping, dissociation takes place when the brain compartmentalises traumatic experiences to stop them from feeling too much pain, be it physical, emotional or both. When experiencing dissociation, you experience a detachment from reality, like “spacing out”.

Children with dissociative disorders are prone to trance states or “black outs”, where the child is unresponsive or has a lapse in attention. They may also:
• Stare at nothing
• Forget parts of their life or what they were doing a minute ago, or
• Act as if they just woke up

Coupled with sudden changes in activity levels (lethargic one minute and hyper active the next), these symptoms are often misinterpreted as Attention Deficit Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

Suggested reading: “Understanding Disorganized Attachment” from David and Yvonne Shemmings.

Worth reading whether you work with children or with adults with borderline personality organisation. It brings together the many complex ideas and research around disorganized attachment, the most extreme form of insecure attachment, and gives accessible explanations on what it is, what causes it, and how to help.

An important book for helping some of the most vulnerable young people overcome early trauma.

To learn more about the book, read reviews and order your copy, click here:

Also available as an e-book